World Series? What World Are You Talking About?

My buddy Fanfan didn’t have a clue. (Work on your French nasal “a-n” if you want to pronounce his name properly in your head.) Though he loves sport, and was my video connection, player biographer and technical guide to the World Cup last summer, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t. “Hé, Fanfan, tu es excité pour le début de la Série du Monde?” His face was delightfully blank. “La Série du Monde. World Series. Tu sais, le championnat de baseball?”  His growing grin said why do I need to know anything about that?

Here’s an odd little sporting artefact of history and geography. Fanfan comes from Haiti. On his half of a small Caribbean island, le foot is everything. The other half is the Dominican Republic, an absolute assembly line (no wait, an open pit mine) for baseball players. (It is estimated that one in seven major leaguers, and an incredible thirty percent of minor league ballplayers in the U.S., come from this poor and tiny nation. For a politically charged view of this, take a trip to the edge of sports .) Fanfan was a bit surprised to learn how dominant the D.R. is in baseball, because “when we play them, we win 10-0, 15-0.” He was talking soccer, of course. Has anybody written the history of the island in sporting terms? Are there any geographical reasons for the ancestors of slaves to have talented feet in the west of Hispaniola and beautiful hands in the eastern half of the island? What colonial distinctions led to Haiti siding with the world’s athletic consensus, while the Dominican turned its sporting eyes to the great American pastime? (Am I the only one who thinks about stuff like this?)

Be that as it may, Fanfan couldn’t name a single baseball player, I don’t think, let alone know that the Detroit Tigers were facing the St. Louis Cardinals. (Small “World”!) He knew everything there was to know about the big game between Manchester United and Liverpool, mind you, and he could have given me a detailed breakdown of the title race in the German Bundesliga. But baseball? Who cares? Well, in the communities he’s involved with, there’s pretty much nobody except me. It’s funny: baseball is more international than it has ever been, with many Asian players alongside the majority of American and Latin American ones. (Also, there are more significant Canadian players than there may ever have been, even though the Cards lost Larry Walker to retirement.) But in an international city like Ottawa, there have probably not been pockets of apathy this deep about baseball since, oh, World War II.

I still have baseball dreams, though. I don’t follow it as avidly as I used to, but hey, it’s the World Series! I may not know the complete starting lineup of either team, but I do have a lot to teach my footy Haitian friend about the mysteries of bat and glove. Besides, he has a way better TV than me.

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